Archive for November, 2011

BHP’s Olympic Dam uranium mine and its water use

November 6, 2011

GREEN LIGHT FOR OLYMPIC DAM EXPANSION    THE BLOGGER IS A BHP BILLITON SHAREHOLDER. On 13 May 2011 the company announced a proposal for six-fold expansion of Olympic Dam Mine in South Australia – to extract the most valuable single mineral deposit in the world. The mine will consume up to 42 million litres of water a day from the Great Artesian Basin for plus 40 years.


On 10 October 2011 the South Australian (SA) Government granted approval for the BHP Billiton (BHP) Olympic Dam expansion.  The  Indenture Bill, signed on 12 October by representatives of BHP and the State Government, will now be submitted to vote in the SA Parliament. The SA government will not terminate or suspend the current licence which entitles BHP to take 42 million litres of water each day for Olympic Dam from the Great Artesian Basin (GAB) – but BHP will in the future pay for GAB water. This failure of the SA Government to protect the best interests of the GAB represents an enormously significant strategic win for BHP.

With the value of the Olympic Dam resource now standing at $1.4 trillion (an increase by a factor of 155 over the $9 billion acquisition price in 2005) free GAB water for the past 6 years has been an irrelevant bonus. But whilst future payments for GAB water will be marked with a miniscule book entry in the accounts of this massive mining operation, the concept of paying for GAB water will certainly be of concern to every single pastoralist, country town, and family that actually NEEDS GAB water.
But it is the strategic significance of the position in which these SA Government decisions have placed BHP that may have some of the most wide-ranging and long-term consequences in this potentially mineral-rich desert region of SA.  The enormous amount of surplus water that BHP will own or control will be sufficient to support two mining operations of the size and scale of the current Olympic Dam mine.  As railway lines were once of such commercial significance to BHP in the competitive iron-ore regions of NW Australia, in these parts of SA it has long been the fact that whoever controls the water controls the commerce.  Perhaps this is not the first time in the history of flawed government decision-making that the seeds of an anti-competitive beast have  been planted.
The true obscenity of what occurred in South Australia these last few days is that, by any measure, the best interests of the GAB have once again been trampled by a State government in the rush to accommodate the wishes of a miner.

Poor environmental safety for BHP’s new Olympic Dam uranium mine

November 6, 2011

A headache of Olympic proportions The Drum, Scott Ludlam, 13 Oct 11 The concept of ‘environmental protection’ has taken on new meaning with the announcement of Commonwealth environmental approvals for BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam copper/gold/uranium mine in South Australia.

“We have the toughest environmental conditions that you’ll ever find imposed on a uranium mine,” Commonwealth Environment Minister Tony Burke stated proudly.

This is known in the technical literature as a ‘bald-faced lie’. We know that, because the toughest environmental conditions found at a uranium mine are 2,000 kilometres northward, at the Ranger Uranium mine on a lease chopped out of Kakadu National Park in the NT. There, the company is required to backfill the mine voids with their radioactive wastes, removing somewhat more than a hundred million tonnes of the stuff from the surface and dumping it back in the pit to be capped and revegetated as best as possible. In Kakadu, the company is required to isolate these wastes from the wider environment for a period not less than 10,000 years. This is clearly an impossible task, but a worthy ambition at least. (more…)

BHP’s Indenture Agreement for OLympic Dam Uranum Mine – a poor deal fro South Australia

November 6, 2011

Mike Rann has claimed that the new open-pit mine will be his “economic legacy to the state.” However, a considerationof the financial return to BHP through diesel rebates alone indicates that this legacy may be somewhat overstated…

 BHP stands to gain $128 million per year in diesel rebates in the initial development period of the mine, $144 million per year in the intermediate stage, and $178 million per year at full production.

Public resources for private profit: free water for the largest open-pit mine in the world  Coober Pedy Regional Times, by: Nectaria Calan, 13 Oct 11,  ”………With approval of the new mine announced on Monday, the next stage of the approval process is the negotiation of a new Indenture Act which will apply to the new mine. It is expected that the revised Act will be introduced into the South Australian parliament next week, given Mike Rann’s commitment to finalising the indenture agreement  before his retirement on October 20.

It is within the power of the South Australian government to negotiate a substantially different indenture agreement, or to repeal the Indenture Act completely.  (more…)

Italian claim on nuclear fusion

November 4, 2011

Cold Fusion Experiment: Major Success or Complex Hoax?, Fox news, By ,  November 02, 2011 A physicist in Italy claims to have demonstrated a new type of power plant that provides safe, cheap and virtually unlimited nuclear power to the world, without fossil fuels or radiation concerns.

The only hitch: Scientists say the method — cold fusion — is patently impossible. They say it defies the laws of physics……   Jonathan Koomey, an energy consultant who has advised the EPA, said any extraordinary discovery requires extraordinary proof. He said the E-Cat must be verified by an independent study conducted by scientists who are allowed access to the machine’s inner-workings.

“[The E-Cat experiment] should be treated as a hoax until independent scientists are able to replicate these results,” Koomey told — as one would treat claims that someone had defied the laws of gravity or found a major flaw in the theory of relativity.

Koomey explained that cold fusion defies the laws of thermodynamics. Energy requires an initial, consumable power source that erodes and breaks down — it simply isn’t self-sustaining……

Rossi claims his company, Leonardo Corp., will produce the E-Cat machine, which he first demonstrated earlier this year at the University of Bologna. Proof of the experiment’s success is that the customer will pay for the technology and start using it, he said…

Fukushima radiation to atmosphere and ocean

November 4, 2011

the institute warned that a significant degree of pollution would remain in waters off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture as caesium-137 has a half-life of around 30 years….

New Norwegian report says Fukushima radiation releases twice initial estimates, Two new European reports on the Fukushima Daiichi disaster released over the last week take large steps in proving that radioactive caesium-137 released after the nuclear power plant was slammed by 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami last March was twice as much as initially thought. Bellona   Charles Digges, 31/10-2011

The estimate of much higher levels of radioactive caesium-137 in the atmosphere comes from a worldwide network of sensors that was studied by the Norwegian Institute for Air Research in a report authored by Andreas Stohl  . (more…)

Los Alamos’s gigantic new Plutonium Complex

November 4, 2011

“The warhead cores of these “plants,”   would be “the successors to the bombs used on Nagasaki. They’d each have a yield that’s 50 times greater than the bomb used there in World War II.”

A Giant New Plutonium Complex at Los Alamos HUFFINGTON POST  Mary-Charlotte Domandi,  10/31/ or, “How to spend $6 billion, create 600 jobs, and prop up the most unproductive sector of the military industrial complex for another generation.”

Despite President Obama’s campaign rhetoric of a world without nuclear weapons, despite the recent catastrophe at Japan’s Fukushima complex, and despite the new START nuclear arms control treaty between the U.S. and Russia last February, it seems the desire among our leaders for nuclear power and nuclear weaponry remains as strong today as it was at the height of the Cold War. What’s just as disturbing, though, is the disregard our government shows for any input from its citizenry — pro or con. (more…)

Nuclear no answer to climate chnage

November 4, 2011

Is Nuclear Energy a Fuel with a Future?, Huffington Post, Andy Mannle, : 10/28/11 “………the nuclear industry needs to do more than build a few plants a year to be a true low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels. A hard look at the science of reducing atmospheric carbon to 350ppm shows why.

To get the world off coal, which produces roughly half of the world’s power, would require 7-8 terawatts of energy. One nuclear power plant yields a gigawatt of power, meaning 8000 nuclear power plants would be needed to produce 8 terawatts. To do this by 2050, 200 plants would need to be built a year, which is roughly one every 1.5 days. Since nuclear plants only have a lifespan of 50 years, by the time the required amount is built, early plants would have to start being decommissioned. After that, new plants would need to keep being built at the same pace just to replace retiring ones.

So if the world goes nuclear, supplying half the power we need would require building a new plant every other day forever.

Even if this rate of growth were feasible, it is clearly unsustainable. Of course, no single strategy is going to wean us off coal in several decades. We will need a combination of carbon reduction strategies — what Princeton researchers Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala call “stabilization wedges” that each reduce a billion tons a year for the next 50 years. The “wedges” include efficiency, renewables, carbon sequestration, reforestation, and replacing coal plants with natural gas. But even for nuclear to generate a single wedge would require tripling our current nuclear capacity.

The reality is global CO2 emissions are rising, not falling. And we can’t build enough nuclear alone to stop them. As such, nuclear’s benefits as a low-carbon alternative would only materialize in the context of a global war on carbon. Absent that, nuclear becomes just another low-carbon energy source competing on the open market with cleaner renewables and cheaper natural gas. Ironically, the current slow growth of nuclear and the possibility of an actual nuclear retreat after Fukushimacould mean an acceleration in our rising CO2 emissions, cautions the International Energy Agency…..

Risks for nurses and patients in medical radiation

November 4, 2011

For patients, unnecessary procedures (usually imaging procedures) and radiation dosing errors represent the bulk of risk from medical radiation, whereas incidental, unintended radiation exposure is the primary concern for nurses and other health care workers…

Radiation safety for patients—and nurses   Oncology Nurse Advisor, Bryant Furlow, October 26, 2011  Diagnostic and therapeutic radiation have prolonged and improved millions of patients’ lives, and represent indispensable and increasingly sophisticated tools in clinical oncology. But medical radiation’s gifts have come at the potential cost of unintended irradiation of patients and health care workers and increased lifetime risks of secondary cancers. This concern has grown with improving patient survival times, particularly among pediatric cancer patients. (more…)

START nuclear weapons data does not inspire confidence

November 4, 2011

though not yet 1 year old, the New START treaty is already beginning to increase uncertainty about the status of U.S. and Russian nuclear forces,”

U.S. Releases New START Nuke DataNTI Global Security Newswire,  Oct. 26, 2011 The United States as of last month officially had 1,790 deployed strategic nuclear warheads, while Russia had fielded 1,566 long-range weapons, according to details from a semiannual information swap mandated under a strategic nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries (see GSN, Aug. 5).

 The United States had 822 ICBMs, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and nuclear bombers deployed at the time of the exchange, the State Department said in a fact sheet released last week. Russia wielded 516 such launch-ready delivery vehicles. (more…)

Failure of MOX nuclear reprocessing projects

November 4, 2011
“The government would be crazy to consider building another MOX plant. MOX cannot be recycled.”….
No scientist in the United States is studying how to safely store MOX fuel.

The Bomb Plant: A MOX White Elephant?, DC Bureau By , on October 20th, 2011  The National Nuclear Security Administration may have a $10 billion taxpayer-financed white elephant on its hands based on Britain’s experience with a similar plant that has been shuttered after a decade of failed operations.

NNSA is building a French-designed plant to convert plutonium warheads into mixed oxide (MOX) reactor fuel at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, South Carolina. The United States’ MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility is over budget – already double the estimated costs – behind schedule and still has no commercial customers for the fuel. But the DOE is pushing ahead with construction at a time when international nuclear utilities are shuttering their failed MOX programs. (more…)